After we have hit so many well-beaten paths in mainland Europe over the past year (Paris, Rome, Florence, Athens, Bavaria, etc.) a trip to Norway may seem, from an outside perspective, entirely random. I wouldn’t say its tourist attractions are among the most famous in Europe, it isn’t on the Euro, it isn’t a budget destination by any means, it isn’t necessarily known for its food, and it is such a big country that it was difficult to tackle in only a week. However, we went for a much more specific reason. Derek’s dad served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Norway from 1969 to 1971 and we four (Derek’s dad and our family of three) went together. (Side: If you don’t know much about Mormons check out the two links in the last sentence, see my profile here, or check out this website or these videos). We went with Derek’s dad to see some sights and to have some family time, but we ended up loving Norway and Norwegians along the way.
We flew into Oslo and drove a few hours south to Tønsberg on our first evening. Along the drive we recorded snippets of Derek’s dad talking about life in Norway as a missionary in 1970. Tønsberg had been one of the places he served. He had stories about having to walk to a bath house (that we passed) weekly to shower (!), how his landlord would kill rats by burning them (!!!), and how welcoming and wonderful the people were. The next morning he and Derek went to visit a couple the he knew from back then. That afternoon we drove even farther south to Arendal where we were welcomed into a home of a family that Derek’s dad taught while on his mission. Initially, before stepping into their home Derek and I felt slightly apprehensive. We didn’t know the people we were about to spend the next two days with, we didn’t know much about Norwegian culture, and I was worried about bringing a busy two year old into a new home – possibly not very accustomed to toddlers. Our worry was unnecessary. We were warmly welcomed, had a big family dinner, listened to stories, and made new friends. The woman that we stayed with was in her 80s and had been confirmed (after baptism) by Derek’s dad. She had 6 children, a few of whom we met, a few grandchildren there (our age), and a great grand son that was 2 weeks younger than Daughter (instant friends!). What a great legacy!
This is downtown Arendal, taken on Sunday after church. We’re not in our typical Sunday garb because our luggage hadn’t made it to Oslo. Boo. We thankfully had enough clothes (but not socks – whoops) in our carry-ons to last until we did get our suitcase that night.
Our visit to Arendal was about the people, not the sites. This is a change to how Derek and I have traveled the past year. We sat and ate (and ate and ate! That’s Norwegian hospitality for you. Though some of our own gluttony may be to blame…), played games, and got to know each other. It was really wonderful and shaped our entire trip.
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) believe, we just had our semi-annual general conference this weekend. It’s a chance to listen to true apostles and prophets of God and we always look forward to watching. All of it is online here.